Waiting for the public defence session to begin. The Opponent and main examiner was Associate Professor Kirsten Jaeger from Aalborg Univeristy, Denmark.
Photo for CMC: JE Nilsson and David Neikter Nilsson © 2009
One of the things that have dawned on me during the years I have spent working on my thesis is that writing a doctoral thesis and having it approved are done for various reasons, and thus approached in many different ways around the world.
One reason for people to pursue a PhD is to obtain a final, formal confirmation of their status as an expert in their own lifelong field of work. In northern Europe, you can research and write a PhD thesis alongside your full-time occupation, and there is no real rush to it. If it takes ten years or more, it does not really matter. That the time taken to write a PhD thesis is secondary to the quality of the thesis is very much emphasized here in Sweden, and these values are reflected in the average time to complete a PhD in Scandinavia, which is 10 to 14 years, without anyone batting an eyelid.
A more common reason for pursuing a PhD is in preparation to your academic career in your particular field of interest. This is mostly done at the university where you’ve received your basic training, by adding a research education on top of what you have already done in your undergraduate days. This is a quicker way and you follow the methods of the professor you have already been studying under.
Personally, I have a passion for research and pursued a PhD because I wanted to become a research specialist in a field of my own choice and one that I have pioneered myself out of pure interest, which is to study Scandinavian management / leadership in Asia, in particular in Singapore. I also wanted to use the two qualitative methods of grounded theory and systemics linguistics as analysis tools on business administration matters, while most other studies on management have thus far favoured quantitative methods.
Having come from a mostly Anglo-Saxon education background, I have also sped through, the best I could, the Nordic education system with 6 years doing my PhD, that included a year as a ‘visiting student’, the time spent learning Swedish as a third language, the sporadically offered compulsory PhD courses for all doctoral students and the writing of the thesis.
I actually saw this entire process as something quite enjoyable. To be able to dig into tens and thousands of words and numbers, get them into order and eventually start seeing them form into patterns of meaning and information, is actually fun. I realize this might finally position me as a true blue ‘nerd’, but so be it.
PhD Public Defence session
Protocols for PhD public defence sessions in Scandinavia vary according to which traditions the institution follows. Some universities in Finland are amusingly conservative, so much so that one can almost see how doctoral public defences were conducted during the Medieval times, while universities in Denmark can be quite modern and informal. Swedish traditions are somewhere in-between.
All in all, around thirty persons made it to the event last Saturday. Considering this was during a spring weekend, I was impressed and happy to see so many attending the disputation instead of setting up barbecue in their gardens or pretty much doing anything else at all.
The procedure during my defence session in Sweden began with the Chairman opening the session by introducing the participants, which were the Candidate (myself) and the Opponent, in this case, Associate Professor Kirsten Jaeger from Aalborg University, Denmark, who was also the main examiner in the examination committee.
Next step was for the Chairman to ask the Candidate if there were any additions or corrections to the text. Most candidates will have an “errata” list that would now be added to the thesis. This is important if there are any significant mistakes in the paper, for example, if the word ”not” was left out in the main conclusion.